Everton Away - Preview
The visit of Manchester United last week was initially met with some trepidation, and it would be fair to say that you'd have taken a point come the final whistle. From a personal standpoint, I`m confident I`d have even managed to stomach a defeat if we at least put up a brave fight, rather than falling pathetically by the wayside like we did for the Liverpool and Chelsea drubbings.
So, imagine the atmosphere at fortress Carra Rud when referee Anthony Taylor blew his whistle. To the left of the Barclay end, the Man United fans who had travelled such a long distance had already began their journeys back to London and Great Yarmouth respectively. A few stayed behind to try and remove the heads from their hands.
As that corner of the Jarrold Stand cursed their luck, the yellow and green army surrounding them punched the air in delight. Chris Hughton, ever professional and respectful, resisted the temptation to do the same publicly, but inside he must've been bursting with pride.
It was actually City`s third giant killing of the season (fourth, if you count Stoke and their size difference) after recording victories against Arsenal and Spurs in recent games. Home form has been absolutely vital to the team`s recent resurgence, perhaps made all the more important because of the dropped points on our travels. Aston Villa somehow escaped our encounter at Villa Park with something to show for it, and many will feel Reading were there for the taking because they were still searching for their first league win at the time.
We are in rude form at home, especially against the high rollers, but on away days we`re not hitting the same high notes. What does Goodison Park have in store?
Last Time We Met-
Last season's encounter saw the Canaries come away with a decent point, though there was a tinge of disappointment that we didn't hold onto the lead to come away with two more of them. Grant Holt's sublime control in the box completely bamboozled the swarm of blue shirts around him and put the visitors in front going into half time, but Leon Osman ensured Everton got back into the game after more of our traditionally suspect defending reared its ugly head.
Thanks to his goal, Holt started getting rave reviews after this game for his performances. From what I can recall, this was the first time the cries of "Holt for England" weren't being uttered by Norwich fans in some kind of ironic statement, it was starting to get serious to the point where you thought "Actually, this guy's in good form. Give him a call-up!" That strike was his seventh of the season, and as we approached the halfway stage of the campaign he had gone a long way to proving himself to the pundits as someone who could cut it convincingly at this level.
The game itself was largely dominated by the hosts, but at least we came away with something to show for it. Points like these were probably instrumental in helping to keep our distance from the bottom three.
What's in store this time?-
Maurone Fellani is suspended, which is a massive plus point for us if we want to get anything from the game. Phil Neville is out with a knee injury too. Everton enjoyed a good start but their form has dipped a little recently. While they've only lost one in six, they've also slogged through four draws and were the first team to get beaten by struggling Reading last weekend. By contrast, we're unbeaten in 6 in all competitions with victories against some high rollers. We're still searching for a first away win though, and Goodison is as tough as they come when you embark on your travels.
Key opposition threats-
It's a team littered with talent, who I still think have every chance of competing for a top four finish. With Fellani and Neville out, Leighton Baines will be trying to run the show from left-back, something he's been doing fantastically well recently. Osman is always a threat and will no doubt be given a boost by his recent England call-up. Tim Howard is arguably one of the league's best goalkeepers. Up front they look to have finally solved their striker crisis with Nikica Jelavic leading the line superbly. Tough going!
I said the same thing at then end of my Reading preview, but I'll try and expand on it. To me, this season our home games are absolutely the most important and the ones we should be striving to win the most, playing with as much creativity as we can and playing the kind of free-flowing, passing game that we're renowned for.
But away from home, it's time to roll the sleeves up and battle. We've been excellent at the back recently and we'll need to put more emphasis on that against an Everton side with lofty ambitions. I look at any points away from home as a bonus to the points we need to be picking up at home. Every now and again we'll nick a win on our travels and that'll act as a springboard for the good work we've been doing on home soil. Any draws and single points we can get are crucial on their own, nevermind victories.
What we also can't expect is to repeat heroics like the United victory every week. One week we can beat United, the next we could lose this one. That's sport, that's football. Should we lose this game, we can't phone in to Canary Call and moan with statements like "How can we beat United, but not Everton? Was' gorn' orn' in traynun Neil?"
But Fellani's absence makes a big, big difference. He won't be there to shut down the trickery of a Wes Hoolahan for instance, or to complete several passes and act as a catalyst for some counter attacks. One player being out doesn't suddenly make the whole team rubbish, but it's a window of opportunity Chris Hughton will be keen to exploit.
Good luck lads.